Lance Armstrong biography
Cyclist Lance Armstrong was born on September 18, 1971, in Plano, Texas. At age 16, Armstrong became a professional triathlete. In 1989, the U.S. Olympic development team invited him to train as cyclist. He placed 11th in the World Championship Road Race, with the best time of any American since 1976. From 1999 to 2005, Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles, inspiring others with his cancer survival. In 2012, the U.S Anti-Doping Agency stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour titles—as well as other honors he received from 1999 to 2005—and banned him from cycling for life, concluding that Armstrong had used banned performance-enhancing substances during those years. The cyclist vehemently denied the claims for several months thereafter, but in January 2013, admitted to doping throughout his cycling career.
Born on September 18, 1971, in Plano, Texas, Lance Armstrong was raised by his mother, Linda, in the the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. Armstrong was athletic from an early age. He began running and swimming at 10 years old, and took up competitive cycling and triathlons (which combine a 1,000 meter swim, 15-mile bike ride and three-mile run) at 13. At 16, Armstrong became a professional triathlete—he was the national sprint-course triathlon champion in 1989 and 1990.
Soon, Armstrong chose to focus on cycling, his strongest event as well as his favorite. During his senior year in high school, the U.S. Olympic development team invited him to train with them in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He left high school temporarily to do so, but later took private classes and received his high school diploma in 1989. The following summer, he qualified for the 1990 junior world team and placed 11th in the World Championship Road Race, with the best time of any American since 1976. That same year, he became the U.S. national amateur champion and beat out many professional cyclists to win two major races, the First Union Grand Prix and the Thrift Drug Classic.
International Cycling Star
In 1991, Armstrong competed in his first Tour DuPont, a long and difficult 12-stage race, covering 1,085 miles over 11 days. Though he finished in the middle of the pack, his performance announced a promising newcomer to the world of international cycling. He went on to win another stage race, the Settimana Bergamasca race, in Italy later that summer.
After finishing second in the U.S. Olympic time trials in 1992, Armstrong was favored to win the road race in Barcelona, Spain. With a surprisingly sluggish performance, however, he came in only 14th. Undeterred, Armstrong turned professional immediately after the Olympics, joining the Motorola cycling team for a respectable yearly salary. Though he came in dead last in his first professional event, the day-long San Sebastian Classic in Spain, he rebounded in two weeks and finished second in a World Cup race in Zurich, Switzerland.
Armstrong had a strong year in 1993, winning cycling's "Triple Crown"—the Thrift Drug Classic, the Kmart West Virginia Classi and the CoreStates Race (the U.S. Professional Championship). That same year, he came in second at the Tour DuPont.
He started off well in his first-ever Tour de France, a 21-stage race that is widely considered cycling's most prestigious event. Though he won the eighth stage of the race, he later fell to 62nd place and eventually pulled out.
In August 1993, the 21-year-old Armstrong won his most important race yet: the World Road Race Championship in Oslo, Norway, a one-day event covering 161 miles. As the leader of the Motorola team, he overcame difficult conditions—pouring rain made the roads slick and caused him to crash twice during the race—to become the youngest person and only the second American ever to win that contest.
The following year, he was again the runner-up at the Tour DuPont. Frustrated by his near miss, he trained with a vengeance for the next year's event, which he won, finishing two minutes ahead of his closest rival, Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia, who had defeated him in 1994. He repeated at the Tour DuPont in 1996, setting several event records, including largest margin of victory (three minutes, 15 seconds) and fastest average speed in a time trial (32.9 miles per hour).
Also in 1996, Armstrong rode again for the Olympic team in Atlanta, Georgia. Looking uncharacteristically fatigued, he finished sixth in the time trials and 12th in the road race. Earlier that summer, he had been unable to finish the Tour de France, as he was sick with bronchitis. Despite such setbacks, Armstrong was still riding high by the fall of 1996. Then the seventh-ranked cyclist in the world, he signed a lucrative contract with a new team, France's Team Cofidis.
Battling Testicular Cancer
In October 1996, however, came the shocking announcement that Armstrong had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Well advanced, the tumors had spread to his abdomen, lungs, and lymph nodes. After having a testicle removed, drastically modifying his eating habits, and beginning aggressive chemotherapy, Armstrong was given a 65 to 85 percent chance of survival. When doctors found tumors on his brain, however, his odds of survival dropped to 50-50, and then to 40 percent. Fortunately, a subsequent surgery to remove his brain tumors was declared successful, and after more rounds of chemotherapy, Armstrong was declared cancer-free in February 1997.
Throughout his terrifying struggle with the disease, Armstrong had continued to maintain that he was going to race competitively again. No one else seemed to believe in him, however, least of all Cofidis, who canceled his contract and $600,000 annual salary. As a free agent, he had a good deal of trouble finding a sponsor, finally signing on to a $200,000 per year position with the United States Postal Service team.
Armstrong retired in 2005, only to announce three years later, on September 9, 2008, that he planned to return to competition and the Tour de France in 2009. He placed third in the race, beaten by his teammate, race leader Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank team member Andy Schleck. After the race, Armstrong told reporters that he intended to compete again in 2010, with a new team endorsed by Radio Shack.
The retail chain will also sponsor Armstrong as a runner and triathlete.
For nearly a decade, Armstrong has been under intense speculation that he had used performance-enhancing drugs from 1999 to 2005 (he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times during this period), but in June 2012, the U.S Anti-Doping Agency brought formal charges against him, threatening to strip the famous cyclist of his Tour titles. The case heated up in July 2012, when some media outlets reported that five of Armstrong's former teammates, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde—all of whom were on the 2012 Tour de France—were planning to testify against Armstrong.
Over the past several years, Armstrong has vehemently denied using illegal drugs to boost his performance, and the 2012 USADA charges were no exception: He disparaged the new allegations, calling them "baseless." On August 23, 2012, Armstrong publicly announced that he was giving up his fight with the USADA's recent charges, and that he had declined to enter arbitration with the agency because he was tired of dealing with the case, along with the stress the case has created for his family and recent work.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," Armstrong said in an online statement around this time. "I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today—finished with this nonsense."
The following day, on August 24, 2012, the USADA announced that Armstrong would be stripped of his seven Tour titles—as well as other honors he received from 1999 to 2005—and banned from cycling for life. The agency concluded in its report that Armstrong had used banned performance-enhancing substances. On October 10, 2012, the USADA released its evidence against Armstrong, which included documents such as laboratory tests, emails and monetary payments. "The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that the sport had ever seen," Travis Tygart, chief executive of the USADA, said in a statement.
The USADA evidence against Armstrong also contained testimony from 26 people. Several former members of Armstrong's cycling team were among those who claimed that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs and served as a type of a ringleader for the team's doping efforts. According to The New York Times, one teammate told the agency that "Lance called the shots on the team" and "what Lance said went."
Armstrong disputed the USADA's findings. His attorney, Tim Herman, called the USADA's case against Armstrong "a one-sided hatchet job" featuring "old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories," according to USA Today.
Shortly after the release of the USADA findings, the International Cycling Union (cycling's governing body) supported the USADA's decision and officially stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France victories. The union also banned Armstrong from the sport for life. ICU president Pat McQuaid said in a statement that "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling."
In a strange turn of events, in January 2013, during a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career, beginning in the mid-1990s. During his interview with Winfrey, Armstrong stated that he took the hormones cortisone, testosterone and erythropoietin (also known as EPO), and conducted blood transfusions to boost his oxygen levels. "I am deeply flawed ... and I'm paying the price for it, and I think that's okay. I deserve this," Lance stated during the interview, adding that he took illegal drugs as a professional athlete due to a "ruthless desire to win ... the level that it went to, for whatever reason, is a flaw."
Of the interview, Winfrey said in a statement, "He did not come clean in the manner I expected. It was surprising to me. I would say that, for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized by some of his answers. I felt he was thorough. He was serious. He certainly prepared himself for this moment. I would say he met the moment. At the end of it, we both were pretty exhausted."
Around the same time that the OWN interview was conducted, CBS reported that Armstrong was in talks with U.S. Justice Department officials about returning some of the nearly $35 million in sponsorship funding that the U.S. Postal Service paid Armstrong's cycling team.
In July 2013, Armstrong made headlines again when it was reported that he would be competing in The Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, an annual, statewide cycling race sponsored by the newspaper.
"I'm well aware my presence is not an easy topic, and so I encourage people if they want to give a high-five, great," Armstrong stated shortly after the news broke, according to the Daily Mail. "If you want to shoot me the bird, that's OK too. I'm a big boy, and so I made the bed, I get to sleep in it."
Charity and Personal Life
Armstrong has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1990. In 1996, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation for Cancer, now called LiveStrong, and the Lance Armstrong Junior Race Series to help promote cycling and racing among America's youth. He is the author of two best-selling autobiographies, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (2000) and Every Second Counts (2003). In 2006, he ran the New York City Marathon, raising $600,000 for his LiveStrong campaign. Armstrong stepped down from LiveStrong in October 2012 following the USADA report that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Armstrong married Kristin Richard, a public relations executive he met through his cancer foundation, in 1998. The couple had a son, Luke, in October 1999, using sperm frozen before Armstrong began chemotherapy.
Twin daughters, Isabelle and Grace, were born in 2001. The couple filed for divorce in 2003. Since then, he's dated rocker Sheryl Crow, fashion designer Tory Burch, actress Kate Hudson, and TV star Ashley Olsen.
In December 2008, Armstrong announced that his girlfriend, Anna Hansen, was pregnant with his child. The couple started dating in July after meeting through Lance's charity work. The baby boy, Maxwell Edward "Max" Armstrong, was born on June 4, 2009 in Aspen, Colorado.